Though living in exile for over half a century in the Himalayan foothills, the longing to see his homeland Lhasa is still fresh in the mind of an elderly globe-trotting Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama, who resides in this north Indian hill town.
This optimistic wish depicts in a picture shared by his private office, portraying the Dalai Lama, 85, training his binoculars on the snow-capped Dhauladhar range in the Himalayas overlooking his residence in Dharamsala. The photo, captured by Tenzin Jamphel, was of a bright sunny day of December 19.
The Dalai Lama, who along with many of his supporters fled the Himalayan homeland and took refuge in India when Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa in 1959, believes in three commitments: the promotion of inner values as the source of real happiness, the fostering of inter-religious harmony, as exemplified in India, and the preservation of Tibet’s language, culture, and environment.
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“Yes, I remain optimistic that I will be able to return to Tibet,” the Dalai Lama wrote on his website while replying to a question: Do you think you will ever be able to return to Tibet?
For him, China is in the process of changing.
“If you compare China today to 10 or 20 years ago, there is a tremendous change. China is no longer isolated. It is part of the world community. Global interdependence, especially in terms of economics and the environment makes it impossible for nations to remain isolated.
“Besides, I am not seeking separation from China. I am committed to my middle-way approach whereby Tibet remains within the People’s Republic of China enjoying a high degree of self-rule or autonomy.”
The Dalai Lama said: “I firmly believe that this is of mutual benefit both to the Tibetans as well as to the Chinese.
“We Tibetans will be able to develop Tibet with China’s assistance, while at the same time preserving our own unique culture, including spirituality, and our delicate environment. By amicably resolving the Tibetan issue, China will be able to contribute to her own unity and stability.”
But in his public audiences, the Nobel Peace Laureate in the same breath is often not missing an opportunity in expressing gratitude by saying India has also become his “spiritual home” and he considers himself a son of India.
“All particles in my mind contain thoughts from Nalanda. And it’s Indian ‘dal’ and ‘chapati’ that has built this body. I am mentally and physically a son of India,” the Dalai Lama is often quoted as saying. In his virtual address to students of IIT-Mumbai last week, the spiritual leader noted, “It’s a great honor for me to speak to people who belong to this country because we Tibetans are followers of ancient Indian thought.”
The Dalai Lama’s book, “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World”, published by US-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2011, says: “I am an old man now. I was born in 1935 in a small village in north-eastern Tibet. For reasons beyond my control, I have lived most of my adult life as a stateless refugee in India, which has been my second home for over 50 years. I often joke that I am India’s longest-staying guest.”
Even the Dalai Lama’s first political successor and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) President Lobsang Sangay believes the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet is his top priority.
“I have never been allowed to set foot in Tibet. My late father, like many of our parents, could not return to Tibet. Together, we will ensure the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, reunite our people, and restore freedom in Tibet,” Harvard- educated Sangay told IANS in one of his recent interviews.
In 1959, the occupying Chinese troops suppressed the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa and forced the Dalai Lama and over 80,000 Tibetans into exile in India and neighboring countries. On reaching India after a three-week-long treacherous journey, the Dalai Lama first took up residence for about a year in Mussoorie in Uttarakhand.
On March 10, 1960, just before moving to Dharamsala, which also serves as the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan establishment, the Dalai Lama said: “For those of us in exile, I said that our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. We Tibetans would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet.”
Every year, Tibetan exiles worldwide remember March 10 — the day when the Chinese launched a crackdown to suppress an uprising in Tibet. Currently, India is home to around 1,00,000 Tibetans and the government-in-exile, which has never won recognition from any country. (IANS)